There's confusion in the land of night-time snacking. First, we heard that eating at night causes the food just eaten to be stored as fat. Then, we heard that it doesn't matter when we eat it, it's the total number of calories eaten throughout the day. This past summer, a study done on mice suggests that for some unknown reason, the food they provide mice before their bedtimes caused more weight gain than at other time. As we wait for more definitive research to guide us, consider your own eating habits at night.
Snacking at night is probably not terrible per se, unless you struggle with gastric reflux. But, those snacks can end up bringing in too many unhealthy calories and interfere with managing your weight.
Think about what's urging you to eat: physical hunger, boredom, loneliness, emotions, a way unwind and relieve stress, or because food looked good on those commercials. If you are physically hungry, be sure to have a small, healthy snack. If not, what does your body or mind is really want?
Here are some of my favorite suggestions I've gathered over the years to help you deal with snacking at night if it has a tendency to get out of control:
- End dinner with a cup of decaffeinated tea or coffee. I've found this very helpful for me to signal the end of the meal.
- Make a decision not to eat after dinner if that seems best for you. Stick by your decision.
- Plan one snack to enjoy at at particular time each night. Choose something you really like, being sure to make it an event. A carton of low fat yogurt, pudding, or a few whole grain crackers with a dab of peanut butter. If you've decided to have a sweet treat, add something healthy to go with it to calm the blood sugar surge. A cookie with non-fat milk or strawberries and a bit of really good dark chocolate. Be sure to sit down and eat mindfully; really enjoy that snack!
- Make a cup of decaffeinated tea, coffee, or non-fat cocoa in your favorite mug instead of reaching for a snack mid evening. Savor it while you unwind for the day. I love pomegranate green tea or French vanilla decaf coffee, while my daughter goes for ginger tea.
- Pick up a hobby that keeps your fingers busy: knit, crochet, do a crossword puzzle, or play solitaire or a favorite game on your computer. Nothing like a mindless game of solitaire to unwind after a long day.
- Go to bed earlier. Enough sleep helps with handling stress and keeps those sleep hormones that can influence your appetite in line.
- Call a friend for a really good chat.
- Take a warm, relaxing bath.
- Delve into a really good book.
- Plan your meals for the following day.